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Origin of the PCS


January 1987
[First Scree Issue: Jan 1967]

On the occasion of the PCS's 20th birthday, and in the interest of keeping Scree the complete scholarly journal for which it's so justly famed, and before I forget, I think it appropriate to recount how it happened the PCS came to be. Disgruntlement is how it came to be.

In the spring and early summer of 1966, Clarence Aberg had been active with the Knapsack Section for quite some time. This section led many trips with a good mix of easy, intermediate, and hard outings. Their tigers of the day specialized in 40 to 50 mile 2-day weekend Sierra trips carrying 8 to 12 pound packs and using what then served as running shoes. These people were strong, experienced, capable mountain travelers with a quaint characteristic Clarence found increasingly annoying. They virtually refused to ascend any summit. They loved their trails, their meadows, their valleys. The symbol at the end of the last sentence is a period.

At this same time, George Barnes had recently become active with the Rock Climbing Section after moving into the area from the southern California desert where he had been a member of the China Lake Mountain Rescue Group and the Sierra Peaks and Desert Peaks Sections of the Angeles Chapter. He had been on a 1963 expedition to the Brooks Range in Alaska and a 1965 expedition to the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan, both with first ascents. He found the RCS led many trips with a good mix of easy, intermediate, and hard outings. Their tigers of the day specialized in difficult Yosemite rock climbs, including new routes, and they had some accomplished mountaineers. These people were strong, experienced, capable mountain travelers with a quaint characteristic George found increasingly annoying. They canceled four consecutive scheduled mountaineering trips. Reasons varied. Sometimes midweek weather forecasts didn't sound too good. Sometimes not many people signed up. The impression grew that their determination was no match for their capability.

On a local hike in midsummer 1966 George ran into Clarence and heard him muttering about what a strange bunch the knapsackers were whereon George said he knew of another strange bunch. George couldn't believe what Clarence said about the knapsackers so went on one of their trips with Clarence and found it even so.

Clarence and George egged each other on and finally decided to advertise a meeting to see what interest there might be in the Chapter for a new section whose purpose was to climb mountains (quaint idea, that). And so it happened that in September 1966 a meeting occurred at Clarence's in Los Altos with about 10 in attendence. The idea was proposed to create a section with some name the RCS wouldn't object to that would be modeled after the Angeles Chapter SPS and DPS in general operation. The section would climb in the Sierra, the desert, the coast range, and the southern Cascades using routes that generally did not exceed class 3 in difficulty. Climbing would be year around with a mountaineering committee of experienced climbers keeping an eye on leaders and trip schedule to ensure safety and so that climbing experience would not have to be a prerequisite to hold section office.

The assembled group, representing a variety of backgrounds and experience, agreed on the basic idea and so, in effect, the PCS was born at that meeting. The remainder of the fall was spent in arguing organizational detail and assembling draft bylaws for Chapter approval. Among items discussed was whether or not to adopt Angeles Chapter-style peak lists and emblems and it was firmly decided not to. The section needed a name and "Peak Climbing Section" was found not to annoy another section which viewed itself as the sole proprietor of the name "mountaineering."

By December 1966 the bylaws were far enough along that the as-yet-unofficial section called itself another meeting to complete them at Clarence's. The draft was finished, refreshments served and a young participant by the name of Bill Rausch showed slides of his climbs of the Mexican volcanoes. There was one more hurdle: bylaws approval by the Chapter Excom.

In mid-December Clarence and George appeared before the Excom's regular meeting, bylaws in hand, to seek approval. Most Excom members appeared somewhat confused as to what was happening (they were non-outings conservationists) with one notable exception. Mel Wright, experienced mountaineer and long-time RCS member climber new exactly what was happening, asked some pointed questions, and, satisfied by the answers, was instrumental in approving the bylaws.

The PCS was now official and the first meeting of the no-longer-provisional section was in January 1967 at Pauline Johnson's in Los Altos. Clarence was elected first PCS Chairman and George Vice Chair and schedule coordinator. George was also appointed Chair of the Mountaineering Committee thus minimizing arguments with the PCS Vice Chair over scheduling issues. Plans were made for the section's first outing in February to Ralston and Echo Peaks led by Clarence. The hospitality, space, and fabulous Sierra topo map wall at Pauline's were so attractive that for years PCS meetings were held nowhere else. The Peak Climbing Section was launched.

by George Barnes

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